...but their bags stayed in Dayton...
December 16, 2003 10:51 PM   Subscribe

"We came down here for wind and sand, and we have got them."

Today is aviation's 100th birthday. At 10:35am Eastern, the Experimental Aircraft Association will attempt to re-enact the first flight of the Wright Brothers' "marginal" aircraft. (It's apparently very difficult to fly -- for one thing, the pilot must keep the airspeed between 27 and 32 mph, using an engine without a throttle.) Wish I could be there in NC at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. It's utterly astounding that only 66 years -- less than a lifetime -- elapsed between Orville Wright's twelve-second, 120-foot flight and the Apollo 11 moon landing.
posted by Vidiot (16 comments total)

"On or about 31st March 1903 a reclusive New Zealand farmer Richard Pearse climbed into a self-built monoplane and flew for about 140 metres before crashing into a gorse hedge..." [here]

It wasn't controlled, but it was three times the length... Oh well.
posted by sycophant at 12:41 AM on December 17, 2003

Great, uplifting (no groan!) post, Vidiot - thanks.

I don't much like museums but one that really impressed me was the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington - an obligatory pilgrimage for us Portuguese, ever-sensitive to anything to do with explorers and discoverers. They're celebrating in typical low-profile way.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:42 AM on December 17, 2003

The next 100 years of aviation, Part 1. An interview with Pam Drew, head of engineering and IT at Boeing's Phantom Works research and development lab. 'Personal' point-to-point airplanes and and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Taking the fighter pilot out of the cockpit and putting him on the ground.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:06 AM on December 17, 2003

Here's another peek at the future
posted by magullo at 1:48 AM on December 17, 2003

The "American Heritage of Invention & Technology Magazine" had an excellent special issue on the centennial. One of the articles is available on line. It relates not only their technical accomplishments but also their attempts at commercializing their ideas by patenting them and how ultimately they failed. After around 5 years they got out of the airplane business and their company was later bought by their archrival Glen Curtiss.
P.S.: How can you not love a magazine that has a whole article on the story of the Phillips screwdriver.

posted by golo at 2:05 AM on December 17, 2003

It's 100 years of powered flight, manned flight in a winged aircraft celebrated its 150th birthday earlier this year.
posted by vbfg at 5:00 AM on December 17, 2003

Now pay no attention to the New Zealander hiding behind the curtain... or any Brazillian expatriates living in Paris... or any old English Baron types. (wow, it's getting crowded behind that curtian)
posted by KnitWit at 6:28 AM on December 17, 2003

Indeed, golo -- Invention & Technology is like geek porn.

And while we're recommending things, Noah Adams' book "The Flyers" is very good...Adams journeys to Kill Devil Hills, Dayton, and Ft. Myers (where the Wrights perfected the airplane and learned how to navigate).

I also very much liked Paula Degen's "Wind and Sand: The Story of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk", which features tons of the Wrights' photographs and excerpts from their letters. (Alas, out of print, but it's easily findable.)

on preview: from syncophant's link: "Pearse himself. . .didn’t believe, by his own rigorous standards, that he had achieved ‘proper’ flight, which for him meant a powered take-off followed by 'sustained and controlled flight'. . .In the letters he states that he set out to solve the problem of aerial navigation in February or March 1904, and also concedes that pre-eminence should be given to the Wright Brothers."

Also, Santos-Dumont flew three years later than the Wright Brothers did, and Cayley's flight was a glider, not a powered airplane. This shouldn't diminish their contributions (nor those of Chanute, Lilienthal, Bleriot, or any of the other towering figures of aviation's early years.) In fact, the Wrights acknowledged in their 1900 letter to the Smithsonian that they were planning to attempt flight with a plane based on Cayley's design.
posted by Vidiot at 6:46 AM on December 17, 2003

Who says Ohio didn't give the world anything?
Clavin & Hobbes and The Wright Brothers.

I'll be *very* glad if the news reports tonight do not show the recreated first flight to the tune of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly"
posted by riffola at 7:13 AM on December 17, 2003

I'll be *very* glad if the news reports tonight do not show the recreated first flight to the tune of R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly"

I second that, Riffy. I'd much prefer "Come Fly With Me," although I doubt TV news will ever swing enough to use Sinatra. :)

An anecdote about Ohio (where I live, full disclosure): When the state quarters were being released, Ohio threw a fit over not being able to use the Wright Brothers on their quarter. Of course North Carolina claimed them when they had the chance. It's just as well, really, because Ohio's quarter design is one of the lamest; at least NC did a fairly decent job with the plane graphic.
posted by boomchicka at 10:09 AM on December 17, 2003

The re-enactment was scuttled because of rain, by the way -- they'll try again in about fifteen minutes as I write this.

But MIT students commemorated it in a classy way -- by parking a replica of the Wright Flyer atop a campus dome.
posted by Vidiot at 10:47 AM on December 17, 2003

the re-enactment failed.

here's some info on the pilot.
posted by goddam at 10:47 AM on December 17, 2003

That's a shame, but it's hardly surprising. The surprising part was that it ever flew to begin with. I hope it does get to fly, though, it would be cool to see it in the air "again".
posted by tommasz at 11:30 AM on December 17, 2003

It's 100 years of powered flight, manned flight in a winged aircraft celebrated its 150th birthday earlier this year.

While manned flight, period, is 220.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:01 PM on December 17, 2003

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